Monday, February 28, 2011

Is King Kenny's midas touch waning?

Has King Kenny's golden touch expired at Liverpool? Was Sunday's 3-1 defeat to West Ham a blimp in the side's return to form under the Scotsman or is reality crashing down on Liverpool now that the euphoria surrounding Dalglish' second stint at the club is beginning to die down?

It's hard to tell at this point. On one hand, last night's display at Upton Park bared a remarkable resemblance to the side that sent Roy Hodgson packing after six months at Anfield.The defense was in shambles while there was a severe lack of creativity up front and Steven Gerrard seemed terribly out of place in the centre of the park with Lucas. At the end of the night, no one from Liverpool could have argued the scoreline. As has been the case all season, the Reds were once again outplayed by an inferior opponent.

Perhaps Dalglish got his tactics wrong this time around and probably didn't help when both Martin Kelly and Raul Mereles were taken off early in the game. Both players have been extremely instrumental in Liverpool's recent string of wins. Nonetheless, it was clear for everyone to see that the Reds lacked ideas trying to crack open West Ham's sturdy defense.

Even new signing Luis Suarez was played an insignificant role for much of the match until some brilliant individual skill by the Uruguayan forward led to a consolation goal by Glen Johnson and a brief glimmer of hope for Dalglish' side until another defensive error in stoppage time gifted Carlton Cole West Ham's third and final goal of the night.

Perhaps the Reds will fare better once Andy Carroll returns from injury. But it is clear that there is a severe lack of quality in the squad and this was more evident whenever they are up against a side that would rather sit back and hit them on the break.

This Sunday, Dalglish will face a test very similar to the one he faced when he first took over from Hodgson and the Scotsman knows all too well that the Reds cannot afford another defeat in already tumultuous campaign for the Merseysiders.

But with Man Utd seeminly unstoppable these days, Dalglish will have muster all his experience to claim a famous victory over Liverpool's bitter opponents. More importantly, he knows that defeat to the Devils could begin another downward spiral in confidence for his beloved Liverpool.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Man Utd looking to Modric?

After a quiet January transfer window, rumours have been circulating of an imminent shopping spree by Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer as the Scotsman looks to reinforce his aging squad. Some reports claim GBP100 million will be made available to the Man Utd gaffer in the summer to ensure Utd has the ability to keep with the other high-spending clubs in the league, especially after Roman Abramovich splashed GBP75 million on two players in January.

And so the first candidate on Fergie's shopping list this summer is apparently none other than Tottenham's midfield maestro, Luca Modric. With Paul Scholes on the way out in the summer and no quality replacements in the current squad, the Croatian international is apparently high on the wanted-list at Old Trafford and Fergie is reported to be ready to pay GBP35 million for the midfielder.

The rumours are perhaps not too surprising considering that Modric has been instrumental to Tottenham's success the past two seasons but would Harry Redknapp part with such an integral figure for his squad?

Some reports claim Modric will be open to a move away from White Hart Lane should Tottenham fail to qualify for next season's Champions League. Other reports say Spurs have slapped a GBP50 million price tag on the player. No official word yet from the player or Man Utd but it is believed that even Barcelona and Chelsea are monitoring the situation. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Is this the FA's plan to never win the World Cup again?

If you haven't heard yet, Roy Hodgson is now tipped to be the FA's choice to replace Fabio Capello once the Italian's contract runs out. It seems Hodgson has been regarded as a "safe pair of hands" by the FA in a report by the Well, if this is true, apparently the FA is determined to ensure England's 1966 World Cup victory is its only victory for a long time to come.

Not that England can't achieve that without Hodgson's help. But one wonders - again, if this is true - on how the FA can possibly consider Hodgson for the job after he imploded at Liverpool. And let's not forget, there's a big chance his current club West Brom could very well lose the relegation battle and sink into the First Division. Would they still consider Roy?

It's even worse when you consider the fact that the man favoured by the bookmakers to be the leading contender for the England job is Harry Redknapp, a man who can actually coach a top flight club. It still remains unclear as to why Redknapp wouldn't be the FA's number one choice for the job. If the FA insists on getting someone English -which is the one criteria Hodgson fits - then it should choose the best English manager out there which would be Redknapp.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Will Arsenal pull off an upset at the Nou Camp?

Well Arsene Wenger certainly does. Following the Gunners sensational  2-1 victory Barcelona in the first leg tie between the two in the Champions League, the Frenchman now believes Arsenal finally has what it takes to beat the Spanish champions.

"Barcelona are still favourites," he was reported to have said. "But we know now we can beat them. We didn't know that last year. 

But at 2-1, one wonders just what sort of formation will be deployed against Barcelona in the second leg of the tie on March 8. Logically speaking, the game plan should be simple. Defend deep and hit Barca on the counter. But this is Arsene Wenger's Arsenal. It's a not team that's learned the finer arts in parking buses in front of goals. Remember that 4-4 with Newcastle two weeks ago? Had the team decided to adopt a more defensive strategy at some point during the second half of that match when they gradually began to lose their four goal cushion, they would have probably walked out of St James Park with all three points.

But this Arsenal and more importantly, this is Arsene Wenger's Arsenal and defending isn't part of the tactics practiced at the training ground. It has made Arsenal one of the most attractive footballing teams in the world and yet it has made it a club that's become a little barren in the trophy cabinet over the last few years.

So what will it be in three weeks? Will Wenger stick with his brand of attacking football or will he go negative to claim a famous victory?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gattuso turns into the ape-man!

Playing a footballer past his expiry date is never a good idea. Playing a hot-headed footballer who's temper on the pitch has gotten worse over the years is just as bad an idea. Combine the two and you get Gennaro Gattuso the ape-man who ruined what should have been a great night for Tottenham.

In case you missed it, the former World Cup winner headbutted Spurs assistant manager, Joe Jordan following AC Milan's defeat to Harry Redknapp's men in the Champions League at the San Siro last night.

Both Gattuso and Jordan had clashed earlier in the second half and they resumed their war of words at the end of the match which was disgraced by a number of hot-tempered challenges.

During his post-match conference, Gattuso claims Jordan had been "breaking his balls" throughout the match and when the two confronted each other at the of the game, they both got into a heated argument in Scottish (??) before Gattuso's head decided to connect with Jordan's forehead.

The former Italian midfielder is set to face UEFA's disciplinary board for his actions and could face a lengthy ban.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Here's what you need to do Torres

If Fernando Torres' first two games at Chelsea are anything to go by, it's going to take a long time before that GBP50 million price tag hanging over his head will be justified. But the Spaniard shouldn't despair. Instead, he should try to emulate what Wayne Rooney accomplished over the weekend.

Consider this: Much like Torres, Rooney's gone from hero to zero in the eyes of their legions of adoring fans. But Rooney, at the end of the day, stayed -albeit with a huge pay increase - at Man Utd while Torres is now a Chelsea player.

It has taken a while for the Old Trafford faithful to completely forgive their boy wonder and considering the fact that the England international's goal tally this season has been a grand total of FIVE, it's only logical if the fans at the Stretford End start to wonder if Rooney's worth all that money. Until he scores a goal like the one he did against City.

Rooney has often been critised this season of being unclinical in front of goal but against City last weekend, the former Everton striker showcased exemplary technique in dispatching Nani's deflected cross into the top right corner of Joe Hart's goal with an overhead kick.

Thanks to that goal, Rooney's betrayal earlier this season has been forgotten and England's favourite son is back in the limelight for all the right reasons. Best of all, everyone's forgotten the fact that until that goal, Man Utd's most expensive player had only netted four goals this season.

As such, the gameplan should be pretty clear for Fernando Torres. All he'll need to do is score a bicycle kick sometime between now and May and the papers will say the Spain international has justified his price tag. That's all it takes Fernando.

Of course, Rooney's got one advantage over Torres in that the former's English. Rooney's overhead kick is certainly a candidate for goal of the season but the kind of press attention it has received seems to suggest its the best goal in the world.

Perhaps its me but the English press tend to get a little excited when England players perform well. Take the Andy Carroll to Liverpool saga. At GBP35 million, Carroll is now the most expensive British player in history and was priced GBP13 million higher than his new strike partner at Liverpool, Uruguayan international, Luis Suarez.

Is Carroll really worth that much more than Suarez or was it because he's English and that English strikers with a high level of skill and technique are a rarity? For that matter, was Rooney's overhead goal against City that much better than Berbatov's overhead goal against Liverpool this season?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Is Hodgson back to where he really belongs?

Barely a month after getting the sack from Liverpool, Roy Hodgson's back in the Premier League. Will this be Hodgson's chance to repair his tattered reputation after his disastrous six-month spell at Anfield? Perhaps.

In fact, ironically enough, West Bromwich Albion are languishing just above the relegation zone in the league, much like where Liverpool were under Hodgson. But the similarities end there.

At West Brom, Hodgson's main goal will be to avoid relegation. This, if you remember, wasn't among his initial targets at Liverpool although he later made it the club's biggest priority after acrimoniously leading the Reds to their worst start in over 50 years. While we'll never know if he would have succeeded in keeping Liverpool out of the relegation zone by May 2011, chances are high Hodgson will save the Baggies from the drop.

One of the key reasons for this is the fact that Hodgson has a much better record at mid-table and relegation clubs. Sure, he'll remind everyone of his time at Inter Milan (although he might skip the part about being sacked by the Nerazzuri) but it does seem as though Hodgson's not cut out as a top club manager. The mere fact that Kenny Dalglish has rejuvenated the Reds to sixth place in the Premiership with the same footballers Hodgson had only adds testament to the fact that the Englishman had gotten it all wrong at Anfield. As Daniel Agger put it: "We were s***."

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that players of top flight clubs operate very differently to those in mid-table teams. At a big club like Liverpool (no pun intended Torres), the players are generally accustomed to competing against other top flight clubs in the Premier League instead of the bottom feeders in the league. Being placed above or in the relegation zone can cause severe damage to their confidence and just about anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Only a top-rated manager is capable of placing some confidence back into the squad to get them back to their winning ways much like what Harry Redknapp did with Tottenham when he took over Juande Ramos' disastrous reign.

On the other hand, mid-table clubs and other relegation zone regulars are used to playing for their survival in the Premiership to the point where their league position has no bearing on their confidence or performance. How else can you explain Wolverhamton Wanderer's season thus far? Mick McCarthy's side are currently second from the bottom but are the only club to have beaten Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City this season.

Thus, going by this logic, one can clearly see Hodgson having a much easier time at West Brom than he did at Anfield. And in a way, this is where he belongs.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

West Ham to get the London Olympic Stadium?

West Ham United seems to have won in its bid to take over the London Olympic Stadium following the 2012 Olympics, according to "leaked" documents that's been obtained by nearly every credible media organisation in the United Kingdom.

If it's true - and it most likely will be - West Ham will have beaten city rivals Tottenham for ownership of the stadium. And Spurs, according to reports, are apparently livid with the decision and may appeal the decision.

Reports say West Ham was picked over Spurs as their plan entailed keeping the stadium's athletic track and using the stadium for concerts and other sports. Tottenham on the other hand intended to tear the existing structure of the stadium and converted it into a football-only arena.

No surprise then why West Ham's bid would have been favourable to the Olympic Park Legacy Company.

Additionally, under West Ham's bid, the club would reduce the seating capacity at the London Olympic Stadium to 60,000 from 80,000. All the same, it seems highly unlikely we'll see many sold-out matches for West Ham at the new stadium.

That being said, Tottenham's bid included keeping the seating capacity at 80,000 which again seems preposterous even if Harry Redknapp's men win the Champions League. Tottenham's expected to make an announcement on the decision tomorrow so stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Guardiola only extends contract by 12 months?

Barcelona manager, Pep Guardiola has somewhat quelled the speculation surrounding his future at the club by penning an extension to his current contract for - get this - just 12 months!

Guardiola's reluctance to agree to a longer contract certainly raises questions if Barcelona's manager, who's been with the club in some capacity or other since 1984, will eventually look to ply his trade elsewhere (hint: England).

At Barcelona, Guardiola's won nearly everything there is to win as a manager, much like he did as a player and I wouldn't be surprised if he makes a switch to the Premier League where he's been rumoured to be the favourite besides Jose Mourinho to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Man Utd.

Then again, there could be a managerial position opening up at Stamford Bridge real soon. With Carlo Ancelotti's tenure looking more and more precarious each week, Guardiola fits the kind of coach Roman Abramovich would want at the club. It's no secret that ever since Jose Mourinho's departure, the Blues have struggled to recapture the success they enjoyed under the Special One.

But at the same time, would Guardiola have been as successful as he's been without the team he's got? As one would argue, just about any coach who's got Lionel Messi, David Villa, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta at his disposal would have to try hard to lose a game. And let's forget of those four players, one of them is the best player in the world.

The big question at the end of the day is not if but when Guardiola chooses to leave the Spanish champions. Moving at the end of next season may suit well for the likes of Man Utd (Sir Alex has to resign sometime and surely won't be this season).

Another club in desperate need of a big name coach would be Inter Milan who are desperate to regain their spot as the best club in Europe.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Now Liverpool's the bigger club?

Is Fernando Torres starting to regret his move to Chelsea? In his latest interview with the Spanish press, Torres has backtracked on his earlier comments about joining a 'big club' like Chelsea by claiming Liverpool is the bigger club based on its history.

At the same time, just days after claiming he never had a personal attachment to his former club, Torres now says the Reds will always remain special to him.

So what gives? It's probably unlikely the striker completely regrets his record transfer to Stamford Bridge but it does appear that he is beginning to at least regret the manner in which he left Kenny Dalglish' side as well as the various comments he made soon after the deal was announced on Jan 31.

Perhaps the fact that his much-anticipated debut for the Blues was a dismal affair punctuated by a defeat at the hands of his former employers. Perhaps Torres is beginning to realise he could very well be headed down the same path as another high-profile Stamford Bridge flop - Andrei Shevchenko.

Then again, Torres could just be learning a lesson in public relations the hard way. Truth be told, unlike Shevchenko, Torres has a lot more potential in succeeding with Chelsea than the Ukrainian ever did.

On another note, speculation seems to be rife that the last remaining star of the 'Rafalution' period in Liverpool - Pepe Reina - may follow his compatriot's footsteps and leave Anfield in the summer for Man Utd or Arsenal.  I would think a move to the former would be highly unlikely considering the fact that Reina isn't stupid. And after witnessing the Torres' jersey bonfires outside Anfield, the Spanish 'keeper can only imagine what would await him should he ever cross the great divide to Old Trafford.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Torres' big overrated debut

So Fernando Torres' big debut for Chelsea turned out to be just another uninspired performance by the Spanish forward. Only this time, he had a hefty GBP50 million price tag hovering over every move he made during the match.

At least when he was in Liverpool, the critics would sugar coat such performances as a consequence of a lack of form or confidence or an injury or just about everything rolled into one. The fact is, the pundits who've been sympathetic to Torres' shortcomings this season seemed to have turned their backs on El Nino now that the former Reds striker is the world's fourth most expensive player. And who knows, some of them may even be a little peeved at the manner in which he left Liverpool.

Still, Torres insipid performance against his old club should have been predicted the moment Kenny Dalglish decided to field five defenders and four midfielders to squeeze the pace and room out of a Chelsea team that's lacked inventiveness all season.

In fact, ironically, Torres' failure to have an impact on the match owed much to the fact that he received very little service from his teammates which is something he's been used to over the past one and half seasons at Liverpool. If he expected some revolutionary change by switching to Chelsea, he could have done himself a favour by actually checking out Blues' dismal run in recent months in the Premier League.

Nonetheless, Torres will eventually find his footing at his new club. The Spaniard will certainly need time to get used to his new striking partners (after having deployed as a lone striker for the last three seasons) and gel with his new teammates.

Speaking of which, with Drogba rumoured to among the ones on the chopping block in the summer to pay for Torres' transfer, one wonders if there will ever be some chemistry between the two. Drogba has always been reluctant to share the spot light with anyone and his current partnership with Nicolas Anelka has been uninspiring and a disappointment.